A new world order

The hype around China would suggest the world’s third largest economy might be the next superpower, but the mania might be premature

 

Global issues were the focus of media coverage and discussions in the last couple of weeks, with the UN General Assembly meeting in New York, accompanied by a G20 summit in Pittsburgh, followed by G7 finance chiefs meeting in Istanbul just before the annual joint meeting of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Though much of the talk is about economy and its ills international relations were not absent.

There is little doubt that the economic power of traditional leading countries is declining, and the US is losing edge gradually even if it is still the world’s largest economy. Also, rising economic powers like China, India and Brazil are gaining more share of the global economy than previously anticipated. That is driving some analysts and writers to be carried away somehow to reach a conclusion that economic power is going to be reflected in political dominance and soon those emerging economies will change the current world order. Some argue that a multi-polar new world order is in the making, and few are taking it to the extreme, anticipating China, for example, will overtake US as the only superpower.

Traditional leading powers admitted in the Pittsburgh summit that management of global economy should be broader to include emerging economies. That is why G20 is replacing G7 officially next year. That reflects the new facts made clear in the latest global financial crisis and efforts to get the global economy out of recession. Moreover, developed countries are aware of the limited capacity in their economies and the spare room for expansion in emerging economies.

Following the Marxist line of analysis, economic power is the essential factor in assuming political might and hence China is the legitimate candidate to assume global leadership. Even if military power is still a major factor in defining the status of a superpower, the Chinese are building theirs and annoying the Americans every now and then. But, are the Chinese themselves seeking that role as the main pole in international relations? There is no clear answer, and China-mania is just hyping that suggestion.

Market model

Now the third-largest global economy and the most populated country on earth (more than 1.3 billion people), China is still building its economy. Speed of economic development in the last three decades was not at all matched in political reform or even sound social mobility. Almost a third of Chinese live in poverty, and the gap between super-rich and middle class is wide. Besides, the model of so-call “socialist market economy” is less sustainable than traditional free market in the West, Japan and South Korea for instance. China still ranks number 104 among world countries in GDP per capita.

As China’s economic emergence relied mainly on manufacturing for export, it attracted big corporations from the West and Japan to manufacture in its special economic zones. The struggle is still going on; such multinational firms are pushing for its business model to dominate and Chinese authorities are resisting a full-fledged capitalist market model. Though it seems that both parties are in a lull now, co-habiting each other’s rules, it is difficult to imagine things going on like this. The political elite in China did not want to lose their privilege, and they know if they are to compete for world leadership they might have to go through the change witnessed in Central and Eastern Europe in the last two decades.

The race for raw materials and energy is an evident area of struggle between China and traditional world powers, in the Middle East and Africa in particular, but also in Latin America. But China is aware that assuming the role of global superpower is not in its economic interest in absolute terms. It would have to shoulder the view from under-developed countries as an “imperialist economic power” draining resources and imposing marketing to accumulate profit. That is why China’s leadership prefers to get their economic needs and open markets in a subtle way.

There might be a new world order in the making, most likely with new powers rising to replace the hegemony of the West, but China and the like are not taking over traditional world powers — at least for now or the near future.

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One Response to “A new world order”

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